Doni is five years old.
“Mommy! I don’t want to be here. I did not ask to come into this world, and I don’t want to stay.”
Doni is seven years old.
“Mommy! I want to walk into traffic. I want to walk into the ocean and keep on walking…”
Doni is nine years old.
“Mommy! Why should I do my homework? I will be dead tomorrow, anyway.”
“Mommy! Why should I brush my teeth? The bugs will eat me when I am dead tomorrow.”
Doni is a teenager.
“Ma! Why should I live? Only because you love me? I love you, too! But I am in too much pain.”
“Ma, what is your least preferred way that I kill myself?”
My son died from mental illness, but the true story is that he, and we, lived with mental illness.
My name is Aliza Bulow. This is my Kintsugi Story.
Doni was my youngest, my sixth child. I’ve had experience with tough kids and another child who struggled with depression. I was not a newbie when it came to dealing with difficult children. One of my sons was so hyperactive that even a Barbie doll could become a machine gun and start “shooting” the house down.
I was raised in the 70s with the knowledge that women could be or do anything, it felt strange at first, but for my married life, I choose very traditional roles. My husband earned the money, and I transformed it to make our home. I did this through cooking, clothing the kids, and attending to their every need. This was my reality. My husband worked and worked, and buried himself in books (and later in his phone) to both support and avoid the hardship of raising kids who needed extra attention.
“God! Make me strong to so I can handle what you send my way!”
I would ask God to expand me and make me strong enough to handle the intricacies of raising the children. By the time Doni came around, I was certainly stronger. Isn’t that what our experiences do? They expand us; they strengthen us. I needed strengthening. There is no amount of experience that can prepare you to hear your young child ask to die. The sadness, the loneliness of this journey was certainly complicated, to say the least.
Doni’s death was expected. The doctors didn’t know how to cure him, some admitted that in many cases, an illness like his could kill him. People think that when a person takes their own life, it is a choice they made. This choice could be easily changed if just…if certain circumstances were different. For Doni, this was not the case.
We know about the pancreas and that when insulin is missing, we can replace it. We know about heart disease, and we know that there are diets and medications that will keep the issues under control. We are leaning a lot and yet, there is very little that we know about the brain. My son was ill, and the lack of knowledge, the lack of experience, the lack of understanding created a situation where we had very few options for his treatment. Therefore, it was clear to doctors, perhaps before it was clear to us, that the illness would likely eventually take his life.
Shame and Raising a Child with Mental illness
Some people feel the “shame” of the disease, of mental illness. Though I did not share it widely when he was alive, I did not feel shame when Doni died. We had decided as a family that we would be very open and transparent about the circumstances surrounding his death. Mental illness killed our son. He took his own life by poisoning himself. Yes, he did listen to his momma. “Doni, please don’t shoot yourself, I couldn’t handle seeing that….” or “Doni please don’t hang yourself, I couldn’t handle that either…”
Doni listened to my needs. Even in his last moments, he acted with extreme love and compassion to his family. He cared about us.
But what could we tell a neighbor when the police came and took our soon away one night after a rage outburst, where he threatened my life? Those were moments that I chose to keep to myself, a very lonely road. A parent never wants to call the police on a child, but our therapist had emphasized that we needed to not only set boundaries, but stay safe ourselves, as rage was part of his mental illness trajectory. When you chose not to share, you have to smile and say everything ok, while your heart is breaking and your beloved son is in a psychiatric hospital.
I was pretty sure that Doni was not going to live a very long life. I didn’t want to lose him, but I knew I couldn’t hold on to him. No one is going to live forever, but how does a mother live with the knowledge that she will most likely bury her son? What is life? How long is life? And then what?
The Soul Continues
If it were not for my strong belief that we are souls housed in bodies, I would have been devastated. I believe that the life of the body is very short and temporary, but the life of the soul goes beyond what we know and can describe. It is eternal.
If it were not for this knowledge and belief, it would be so much more heartbreaking than it is. I also believe that God carefully, specifically and lovingly matches a body to a soul; I know that everything that happens has a very complicated “mathematical” calculation. It is beyond our comprehension. Therefore, I don’t waste my energy trying to understand what is beyond my ability. God’s got this. I trust Him. I focus on asking for the strength that I need to grow and expand to become more: wiser, stronger, and kinder.
When you throw a glass of water, or an olympic sized pool, into the ocean, each one disappears into the vastness; neither does anything to the ocean. If our lives here are one year, 19 years or 89 years, it is all so short when compared to the ocean, when compared to eternity. If we were to believe that this world is it, then it is too little and too meaningless.
I believe that we are born to the families that we need to be connected with. We make the relationships and the connections that we need. We are messengers and passengers. I know Doni’s soul lives on, without a doubt. I also know that those who are not spiritually connected would have a much tougher time dealing with a loss like mine. I am so grateful for my connection.
Quotes from Aliza
“We are Swiss cheese by design. God made us with holes on purpose. It is up to us to grow and complete ourselves and become whole beings,” Aliza said. She continued by sharing with me some incredible thoughts. “People say that God only gives tests that we can handle. But that is not true. God gives us tests a bit beyond what we can handle, yet, because God wants us to expand. As we progress, the tests become harder and harder; and we have the opportunity to grow and become the person who can overcome. This is the way God brings us forward.” She went on to say, “That is why my prayer is always to allow me to expand and be able to withstand more and become stronger and more able. Each situation prepared me for the next situation in my life.
The day we found Doni, he was still alive. I thought I had found him in time, and the paramedics rushed him to the hospital. We prayed. We were hopeful until there was no more hope. Each member of the family reacted differently. My husband cried and cried. And he worried about our marriage. So many marriages fall apart after the loss of a child. He couldn’t bear a double loss. The kids. Well, some blamed the others for having some insight that the end was nearing. I had pre-grieved so much, knowing the day was coming; I was surprised there were still tears to cry. And yet, even in my own loss, as the mother, it was my job to hold the family together. Each of us had our own grieving journey, and some journeys one can only take alone. There was anger and denial. We were like one greif bouquet, each of us feeling different parts of the grieving process, sometimes combining, sometimes clashing. Together, we have cried an ocean of tears. And, we are still together.
Doni lives on. I don’t visit his grave much because he is so dead there, but in our lives and hearts, he is still very much alive. We still get calls and emails from people who were touched by Doni’s life. We love to share a story and a sigh with them. It is a great source of comfort.
In the last 6 years, I have also lost two baby grandchildren. Because I experienced the loss of a child, I was able to be present for my daughters in ways that other mothers can’t. Not that it makes it better, but it does make it more real. There is light in every darkness.
I have lived a life filled with challenges, but I don’t see my life as hard. It’s just had some really hard parts. I found a way to fill my life with joy and light. I am so grateful for the strength which makes my journey a happy one.
I am Kintsugi and so are you!
If you are struggling with mental illness, please seek immediately the help of a doctor. You are not alone.
If someone you know is suicidal, please contact: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Call 1-800-273-8255 open 24/7
Need to talk to someone? www.7cups.com free service connecting people with free emotional support.
To find out more about Aliza Bulow visit: https://www.abiteoftorah.com/meet-aliza.html
You can read more about Doni here: https://www.abiteoftorah.com/doni-bulow